GORDON, Charles George, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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GORDON, Charles George (1833-1885). 'Chinese Gordon'.
Khartoum Banknote for 5 Piastres, signed in ink by Gordon in the lower left-hand corner, 62 x 103 mm. (2½ x 4 inches), dated 25 April 1884. Printed on crude card, one vertical crack to outer lamination and rather soiled from handling.
The history of the Gordon Notes is a fascinating one. When Gordon arrived in Khartoum in February 1884 he found the treasury almost exhausted and the pay of the officials and troops nearly three months in arrears. Baring had arranged for Gordon to draw £100,000 from the Egyptian Treasury, but all of this huge sum was embezzled and not a piastre reached him. To meet his needs Gordon issued his own notes, all of which bore the date of 25 April 1884. There were ten denominations, from 50 piastres to 50 Egyptian pounds issued in various quantities, and about half were signed personally by Gordon. Without these notes the defence of Khartoum would have collapsed far sooner, but after the city was sacked they were publicly burnt or left for the goats to eat in the streets. Possession of a note was cruelly punished. Nevertheless, at risk to their owners' lives, some made their way across the desert in the following months, hidden in clothing or bags of grain, in the hope that they would be honoured in Egypt. Most, however, were repudiated.
[No: 5407]


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